Art: a vehicle to change perception…

Jo Verrent, Senior Producer for Unlimited has just spent the last few days in Doha, Qatar speaking at the Definitely Able Conference on a panel focusing on Art: a vehicle to change perception…

According to Wikipedia, Qatar is the world’s richest country per capita. It’s a fascinating blend of high tech and tradition and inclusion and access are firmly on the agenda for development. It’s a real testament to the the British Council that the arts feature so highly in the debate – and indeed that the development programme Definitely Able, uses the arts as one of its key vehicles to challenge and change perceptions.

Definitely Able is lead by Sasol – a an international integrated energy and chemicals company working across 37 countries. This year their initiative focused on Ilham – an exhibition at the prestigious Museum of Islamic Art, co-curated with our own Shape Arts and featuring five international artists (including Unlimited’s Juan deGardo and two artists from Qatar.

The conference included speakers from around the globe, and covered education, legislation, access and – of course – the transformational power of the arts. Brilliantly chaired by Ruth Gould from DaDaFest, the panel included Melina Gama De Moura from the Museum of Islamic Art, artists Safiya Al Bahlani and Rachel Gadsden, and myself.

I spoke about how Unlimited aims to be much more than a commissions programme, and how art can play a real role in shifting public perceptions of disability, reframing the traditional ‘pity me’ narrative into something fresh that speaks instead about difference, diversity, equality and individuality. Disabled people are not homogeneous. I believe our very diversity is one of our key strengths. Therefore the ways in which we can change perceptions are varied, nuanced – as individual as artists themselves.

The talks are currently being edited, so we’ll add a link as soon as one becomes available – until then a short feature on Al Jazeera and some visual highlights from Qatar!

IMG_4156 copyThe ILHam exhibition curated by Shape Arts and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

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A rabbit in a dress, on sale in the souk in Doha

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The Islamic Cultural Centre, Doha

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The ILHam  exhibition curated by Shape Arts and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

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A bollard! Street furniture in Doha

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A close up of part of Rachel Gadsden’s new work for the ILHam  Exhibition, inspired by work in the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

Top photo: panelists Jo Verrent, Unlimited, Ruth Gould, DaDaFest, Melina Gama De Moura, Museum of Islamic Art, Sofi Bahlani, artist and Rachel Gadsden, artist. Photo by Tim Hayton.

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